Tuesday, December 30, 2014

A golden year for Russian military programmes

We could probably discuss for days about how much of a real danger Russia represents for Europe, but those who doubt of its resurgent military capability should probably take note that Russia in the year that is about to end has been making dramatic progress in its weapon programmes. 

The navy's shipbuilding and refitting results for the year are good enough to openly talk about a golden period, and the plans are to speed up the process even more in the new year. 

Air force deliveries have also been significant, and there is now a contract in place to upgrade a total of 110 Mig-31 interceptors. Deliveries of 129 Su-34 are underway (the first two batches of 5 and 32 have been completed, and in June the first 3 of 92 aircraft in the third batch were delivered). At least 37 Su-30SM should have been delivered to, and by 2016 they will be 65, with a possible order for 50 more to follow. 
Deliveries of 48 Su-35 ordered in 2009 will be completed next year with the last batch of 14. 
By 2017 there will be also 50 Mig-29SMT, while 79 Su-25 will have been modernized by the end of this year. 

The army has not been forgotten either, with hundreds of helicopters being refurbished or newly produced, plus developments in armored vehicles, with work ongoing on the ARMATA concept which should be shown to the public in the new year.

Nuclear forces have even announced they have started a programme for putting into service new ICBM-launching trains, something that had fallen out of fashion with the end of the Cold War. 
Conventionally armed Missile brigades are steadily being re-equiped with the Iskander M tactical ballistic missile and a new missile, the R-500 Iskander K, is in development, reportedly in breach of the INF treaty due to a range much superior to 500 km. 

Keeping track of all russian programmes and deliveries isn't easy, but i want to write here a recap of the particularly impressive progresses in the Navy's programmes, particularly the submarines production. 


This year the russian navy has finished overhauling the Delta IV-class submarine K-84 Ekaterinburg, and returned it to active service. That brings to 6 the number of Delta IV submarines refitted and overhauled, and all are operational with SINEVA missiles. 
There are also 3 Delta III SSBNs still in service, with the SS-N-18 missile. 

The building of the new SSBNs of the Borei class (Type 955 and 955A) is progressing: Yuriy Dolgorukiy and Aleksandr Nevskiy have been joined by Vladimir Monomach , commissioned on December 19. 
That gives a fleet of 12 SSBNs, although the Borei are still not completely operational due to enduring difficulties with making their Bulava missiles reliable. 

Knyaz Vladimir, first of the improved second batch (955A) is in build, and during 2014 Russia has started building 2 more: Knyaz Oleg had its keel laid down on July 27, and Knyaz Suvorov had its keel laid down December 26. We do not yet know exactly what improvements the 955A introduces: long running rumors of it having 20 instead of 16 missiles are not confirmed. 
Over the course of next year Russia plans to lay down a further three Borei SSBN. 


The first Yasen-class SSN (885M) Severodvinsk was commissioned this year. Kazan is in build and planned for delivery in 2016.
Novosibirsk was laid down in july 2013 and this year Russia laid down two more (Khabarovsk and Krasnoyarsk) on July 27. 
Two more Yasen are planned to be laid down in the new year. 

In december 2012 the Russian Navy signed a contract to overhaul, upgrade and reactivate the two Sierra I (945) submarines Karp and Kostroma. I don't know the current state of the programme, though. 


The Russian Navy has this year commissioned the first of six Improved Kilo submarines (Project 636.3), all destined to the Black Sea Fleet. The submarine, named Novorossiysk, was commissioned on August 22. 
The second boat in the class, the Rostov-on-Don, has been commissioned today [correction from earlier]. 
The third, Stary Oskoi, was launched on August 28, while the remaining three (Krasnodar, Veliky Novgorod and Kolpino) were laid down on february 20, october 30 and october 30 respectively. 

One Lada class (677) submarine is in service and two more in build, and the Russian Navy has announced days ago that it is satisfied of its experimental AIP propulsion system, which is apparently due for insertion into a Lada submarine next year. Production in series is planned beginning in 2017, and earlier this year Russian Navy officers said a new class of SSK, a "5th generation" class to be known as Kalina, would be built with the AIP propulsion. 
Not clear yet how the passage from Lada to Kalina will play out. 

Surface fleet developments  

The surface fleet has been getting new items as well. The Kirov-class battlecruiser Admiral Nakhimov is now in refit and upgrade, and should return to service in 2018. 

The second frigate of the Gorshkov class (Project 22350), Admiral Kasatonov, has been launched on December 12. 
Golovko and Isakov are in build. 

Two more frigates, of the Grigorovich class (Project 11356) are on the way: Admiral Grigorovich should have been delivered in November, and Admiral Essen has been launched the same month. 
Admiral Makarov, Butakov, Istomin are in build and a further ship is planned, the Admiral Kornikov, for delivery by 2017. 

One heavily armed Steregushchiy (Project 20380) corvette has been delivered this year, the Stoiky, in May.
Four ships have been delivered/are in service and four more are in build, including two
Greniyashchy (Project 20385), an improved of the 20380. The Russian Navy plans to build several more of these vessels, aiming to reach a total of 20, but orders have yet to be formalized.

The Russian Navy has launched a programme for 6 patrol ships, Project 22160, and laid down the first 2 (Vasily Bykov and Dmitry Rogachev) on february 26 and July 25 respectively. 

A second amphibious ship of the Ivan Green class (Project 11711) has also been ordered and laid down this year, on december 4. 

The brand new Submarine Rescue ship Igor Belousov has started its second round of contractor sea trials on December 25, and they should close by December 31. 

And there is of course the thorny issue of the two Mistral class LHDs ordered in France, which might or might not be delivered at some point. 

And i might be missing other elements. Not bad at all, for a single year!   

Naval aviation  

In the new year, deliveries of 24 new Mig-29K (20 single seat K and 4 twin seaters KUB) for use on the aircraft carrier will be completed. The aircraft carrier itself, though, is one bit of a bad news as she is long overdue to go into a massive refit and overhaul programme which keeps slipping further away. Forays into the Mediterranean due to the Syrian crisis and conflicting schedules with the Kirovs' own docking needs have so far prevented the launch of the ambitious rebuilding the Russian Navy was planning a while ago.   

The Russian Naval aviation is also receiving at least 12 new Su-30M, land based. 
32 navalized Kamov Ka-52KM attack helicopters are ordered for use on the Mistrals. Deliveries have begun in september. 3 in total are being delivered this year, with 13 more due in 2015-16.
Not sure yet of what, if any impact the Mistral situation will have on this issue.  

Six Be-200 seaplanes are on order, and one should have been delivered this year. They will be used to form two search and rescue squadrons of 3 aircraft each, one for the Pacific Fleet and one for Western Fleets. 



  1. I wonder if our political establishment will ever get around to reading your excellent info Gariele? Would they understand it? If they do, can they communicate it to their electorate and take necessary steps to secure the West?
    In the forthcoming UK elections I don't suppose defence will rate more than a short 'paragraph'.

  2. Gabriele,

    Excellent summary, I would also suggest looking at the delivery of aircraft to the Russian Air Forces, Su-30s and Su-34s are now appearing in substantial numbers not to mention smaller numbers of Su-35, Mig-29 and the ongoing development programmes.

    It is good to see you tracking this stuff, it is noticeable that knowledge and understanding of the current state of the Russian Armed Forces is severely lacking amongst the commentators on some of the more amateur blogs (like Think Defence) where old 90s stereotypes still hold sway despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

    1. Lets not get ahead of ourselves.
      Between the early 90s and the late 00s russian military investment was nothing.
      Spending since has led to a step change in capability, but its upgrading, and that has limits, Raptors eat eagles, Typhoons eat Tornados. The upgrades are good for Russia, but they are upgrades.

      The deliveries of new kit are a bigger worry, but they are arriving in much smaller numbers, and woefully short of original design specs. The UK has more Typhoons than Russia has 35's.

      Things are looking up from the dark days of Grozny, when Russian units were surrounded and wiped out, but Russias performance in Georgia and Ukraine has hardly been anything to write home about either. How long do you think Georgian Resistance would have lasted had the US and UK thrown a few armoured divisions against it?
      Was Georgia really a tougher nut to crack than Iraq?

      Which leaves the future.
      Russia produces 10,053,800 barrels of oil per day.
      It used to get $110 per barrel, today it gets $50, a loss of over $600mn per day.
      Similar losses stem from gas.

      Thats why the rouble has spectacularly failed.

      I dont see another 30 purchases a year for the SU35, and it would need that for more than a decade, just to match the Typhoon fleet, never mind the F35 and Raptor.
      How many Russian Pilots get their 200 flying hours per year?

    2. I do not see Russia's investment in arms stopping anytime soon. We'll see how their currency crisis plays out, i suspect it will be far less apocalyptic than some seem to think.

      I continue to see underestimation of Russia's capability that i do not think are wise, nor justified. While there's no need to exaggerate it either, their force is far less rusty than some say. And their snap exercises in the last few years have shown a level of readiness which is actually impressive.

      As for performance in Ukraine, it was actually quite good. You have to consider that Russia is still playing, with some success, the ambiguity game. It could have armored divisions charging in, in theory, but that would blow the game up.
      As for performance in Georgia, i don't see anything particularly bad about it, quite the opposite. It is not like their level of losses was that high: from where do you get your feeling that they fatigued much? They were done in five days, with little loss.

    3. Well, Russia is losing $600m per day of real money, and thats going to happen for at least another year.
      Perhaos not the death knell, but its going to crimp spending.

      Far less rusty is true, but, thats starting from a very very rusty point.
      The Geopolitical skill in Ukraine is good, the military skill is far less on show, beyond we arent seeing Russian units cut off and destroyed.
      The same goes for Georgia, it took 5 days for Russia to defeat a piss pot principality whos main fighting forces were in Iraq.
      A British or American armoured division would have scattered the Georgian Army in 5 hours.
      It was a big step forward from the low times of Grozney, but it was hardly a walk in the park either.

    4. Their current economic woes will almost certainly curtail Russia's military ambitions to some extent, and it's absolutely correct that we must keep in mind the sudden surge in equipment orders and upgrades is after years of neglect.

      This is Putin's Russia we are talking about though, i fear defence spending will remain far higher through financial strife than it ever would in the West where people place a far greater value on things like healthcare, education and social services.

  3. Gaby,

    Also relevant in this contest would be perhaps the news, published in "Janes", that the UK is reviewing its Defence of the Falklands, as Russia is offering Sukhoi SU-24s to Argentina.

    They are an older plane but do you see a real threat in this? Would the UK need to beef up its present defences of Typhoons and Rapier missiles? E.g. Do we need to hurrry the CAMM missile into service or buy some Patriots or something?

    1. I'm olding out on that deal because apparently Argentina has denied it is going ahead.
      Certainly it would be greatly desiderable to have something more capable that the very, very limited Rapier, but even if the deal went ahead, it might not be necessary to beef things up particularly. Vigilance will have to be high, though.

    2. I often wonder as to the feasability of taking Sea Darts off the 42s once they are deactivated. Possibly the Sea Wolves if any are spare.

      We dont need an extreme air defence net like Russia. but we cant count on total air supremacy like the US either.

  4. I am not surprised Russia is building up its military. Just seen on the news Ukrainian President talking of joining NATO.

    UTTER MADNESS. No wonder the Russians are pissed off, and rightly so.

    One only need look at what happened in the Great Patriotic War to see how paranoid Russia can be.

    Add to this NATO and US forces and bases surrounding Russia, constant SIGINT aircraft and submarine missions into the Barents Sea and beyond, as it has always been since Cold War days.

    I see trouble ahead.

    1. I see nothing right in Russia's behavior. Where Ukraine has to stand, is a matter for Ukraine to decide, not for Russia.
      Russia is signatory of a treaty which, in exchange for Ukraine doing away with its nuclear deterrent, ensured Ukraine's sovereignty would be ensured and safeguarded by US and Russia. Russia's actions this year have basically torn that treaty apart, as well as tearing apart Ukraine itself. As for the perceived "siege", the US forces in Europe have never been as small as they are now, and before the mess in Ukraine, they were going to get even smaller. Even Lakenheath in the UK was pretty much set to be closed and its F-15s returned to CONUS.
      And we both know that military strenght of Europe itself is falling like a stone. What surrounding did Russia fear? Those of what used to be a grand total of 4 jets (now uplifted to 12 or even 16) rotationally assigned to protect the Baltic repubblics which have no air forces of their own...?

    2. Gabriele.

      Of course, Ukraine has a right to choose, that I am not disputing. What I fear is NATO spreading east to Russia's doorstep, and the inflammatory situation that that may cause, such as World War 3. Just because the west went along with it without seeing the dangers staring them in the face.

      We had that when we occupied Afghanistan, with politicians not seeing or caring for history of what has gone before if you try and take a culture based on tribal warfare and turn it into a westernized one. Iraq is in meltdown too.

      Back to bad old Russia, that evil Wolf. Lets compare to a theoretical situation of Mexico allying with Russia, and the Russians placing their assets south of the Arizona border. Would the US be pissed off? Of course!!!!

      To me, NATO was formed to protect Western Europe from the perceived threat of the Soviet Union and Stalin, not to then expand into Eastern Europe and maybe beyond, which NATO told the Soviets they would not do.

      The surrounding I am talking about is NATO, yes, US bases in the Middle East and some in former Soviet republics, US bases in Korea and Japan, Diego Garcia, Alaska, and in pretty much every Ocean with US CGB. Pretty much everywhere by my take looking at a map. Force levels are another matter, I am talking of political alignments Gabriele, not force levels.

      Agree European forces are far too small, you know where I stand on that.

      I see nothing right in Russia's behavior either, I just try to understand why.

      I also see nothing right in the behavior of the West. Lets see some parallels-

      Crimea, on Russia's doorstep, which used to be part of Russia from 1654 I think? Russians living there. Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, nothing to do with the West whatsoever, no large numbers of British or American citizens amongst the indigenous population, yet either invaded, occupied or, in the case of Syria, intervention outvoted in the House of Commons.
      Did Britain or America have sanctions placed on either?

      The hypocricy of it staggers me, but not as much as the plight of Palestine being trodden on by Israel, then every UN resolution vetoed by the US. Another winner in western foreign policy. Both states have a right to exist.

      Cuban missile crisis, which almost caused WW3 with the Soviets on the American doorstep. Parallel - US missiles in Turkey, what was the difference!?

      The Soviet ABM radar at Krasnoyarsk, which was said to violate the ABM treaty as it was not " on the periphery of the territory of the United States" So that explains Fylingdales then....

      Again, my take on Russia's behavior, right or wrong, is in response to the behavior of the West.

      Ukraine then joining NATO leaving us back where we were in 1990 with the 2 sides facing each other down only this time only 490KM from Moscow frankly scares the shit out of me.

      I would like to see Russia join NATO too, there's a thought eh?

    3. You are ridiculous. Ukraine has every right to join whatever organisation it so chooses and the west has the right to encourage it, Russia needs to stop believing it has imperial rights over other sovereign states.

    4. I can see value in both points of view here.

      Russia's actions and behavior this year have been utterly disgraceful and have confirmed that the rest of the world is dealing with a modern (at least wannabe) autocratic leader in the shape of Putin, harking back to Tsarist Imperialism.

      On the other hand, Ukraine joining NATO? I don't want to sound like an appeaser because i really believe Russia's disregard for international sovereignty and law with bully boy tactics needs to be confronted, but at the same time perhaps pushing the boundaries of what is still essentially a Western defence bloc up to Russia's front door could just be asking for trouble, at least within the current climate.

      I mean this Russian fear of encirclement that goes back to the 19th century is certainly paranoid and in many ways nonsensical. But forcing the issue with Ukrainian NATO membership may just result in adding fuel to the flames.

    5. The EU and Ukraine should be free to make whatever deal they want.
      But this is the real world, Russia was always going to respond.
      Saying Putin is a very naughty boy is hardly an excuse for having no plan in place for when his entirely predictable counter moves are made.

  5. I think we should be highly skeptical of Russia and be taking sensible steps to ensure our defenses are improved qualitively and in an upgraded state of readiness. Germany in particular needs to upgrade its land and airforce.

  6. While i don't deny we need to take Russia more seriously and Europe should reverse its unilateral disarmament it's important to remember that Russia is not the USSR. It has less than a 1/3rd of its population. Even with their rearmament program they are still light years behind NATO.

  7. Very interesting break down Gab, and I’m glad you are watching.

    I had interpreted Putin’s wide statements about defence as comments for internal consumption to distract the Russian public from their many problems and earn him another term ( ahem )

    But reading your break down, this is a very targeted, specific and coherent move forward, offering a very real deterrent to NATO. Even a threat if you will, considering the amphibious assault capability.

    Certainly it would overwhelm any non NATO country bordering or near bordering Russia and is bound to have a massive coercive effect on neighbours, allies and enemies in 5 years’ time as these systems come properly to capability.

    This man seems very serious about Russian military power.


  8. Hi Gabriele,
    Completely off topic, but I saw the twitter feed comments on
    the UK Gov having to ask allies to base MPAs at RAF Lossiemouth,
    I have read comments on other defence sites saying that the Nimrod MRA4 was not axed just because of spending cuts, but because it was
    a "flying death trap, that was unstable, and would never have got an air worthiness certificate". just wondered, was the MRA4 a complete lemon, or were the problems talked up to justify scrapping it?


    1. There isn't a definitive answer to this question, i fear. But the MOD has been unable to provide a convincing answer about the supposed inability of Nimrod to come safely into service. It is something that has made the news only after they were scrapped, and in the defence committee, even recently, there was anger at these affirmations since they apparently have no pre-SDSR basis. In august 2010 the RAF launched the first training courses for the MRA4, so, despite the challenges in obtaining certifications from the MAA, to say that the Nimrod wasn't airworthy is false. It had been flying for years. There were still problems, and it would have taken time and money to get the MAA to approve all things, but i don't think it would have been much worse than with Rivet Joint, which is also having trouble with the MAA due to the old age of the airframes and the non availability of some documentations that in the past were not needed, but now are.

    2. Thanks for the info.


  9. This is all about the RAF turning its back on Maritime defence. Why then should anyone believe they will deploy 617 squadron on board HMS Queen Elizabeth for more than show purposes?
    The lack of a plan by the top brass of the RAF to replace Nimrod is scandalous is it not?
    IMHO Never trust MPAs into the hands of the RAF; they lack all credibility; they have abandoned their post and left the UK vulnerable in two key areas. Maritime Patrol and Naval Fixed wing. I also forgot the abandonment of SAR.

  10. Gaby

    (with reference to an earlier comment of mine)

    It looks as if, despite Argentina denying that they are contemplating a buy of the Su-24 from Russia, the UK is definitely looking at upgrading its air defences in the Falklands. In a “Defense News” article entitled “UK Bolsters Falkland Defenses to Counter Argentine Air Ambitions”, it is stated that the UK planners are eyeing a major improvement to air defences in the Falklands.

    Such an improvement will involve the FLAADS (L) missile (CAMM) and linking it to Giraffe radars. Apparently, the UK MOD has already signed a demonstration and manufacture deal with MBDA in late December for a replacement of the Rapier, which is FLAADS(L).

    1. Procuring an additional LEAPP station and Giraffe ABM radar would definitely help in ensuring coverage for the Falklands, without leaving the rest of the army without deployable capability. There are only 5 Giraffe now, and even fewer LEAPP stations, after all.

      The FLAADS(L) has been coming for a while, no surprise there. Question is when it arrives. Was 2018, then 2020, now perhaps 2018 again, at least for the first battery set, to deploy straight to the Falklands...? Maybe. We'll see.

  11. Gaby,

    Thanks very much. Hope that FLAADS (L) arrives sooner rather than later!


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